The following post is the third in a series of posts in which we delve into Prince’s legendary vault, finding those pearls that only diehard fans have heard. Today, I name my top 10 unreleased Prince songs.
It’s no secret that Prince left hundreds (maybe thousands?) of songs in the vaults of Paisley Park when he died. Some of these songs may never see the light of day; others have leaked out in one form or another, and we’ve been lucky to experience what could have been – creating fantasy albums, filling in and replacing bad tracks on released albums with better songs, and marveling at Prince’s creative output.
The following is just a sample of this unreleased work, but they are my 10 favorite songs from the vault – so far (Who knows what will be released in the future?):
“Our Destiny / Roadhouse Garden” – this sequence of songs features Prince’s band the Revolution, the group that led him through his creative and commercial peak. Band member Lisa Coleman sings the lead on the first song, which segues nicely into “Roadhouse Garden,” another ensemble piece. This was the Revolution at their finest; Prince gave a nod to the band and let them do their thing. One only wonders what could have been if the Revolution could have made an album like the scrapped “Dream Factory.” (NOTE: These songs will no longer be unreleased once the deluxe edition of “Purple Rain” is released.)
“Stone” – I’m not a big fan of post-“Sign O’ the Times“ Prince; his output seemed to plummet during the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s as he rushed to release everything that came into his head, with no filter. That being said, this unreleased gem from 1995 is better than most of his released material during that time. It was written by Sandra St. Victor; Prince added additional lyrics and music and recorded it, as he often did, all by himself.
“I Wonder” – “I Wonder” was recorded in either 1990 or 1991; this jewel has a nice melody, spot-on harmonies, and simple instrumentation – just bass and drums. It shows how simple Prince could be, and how sometimes less was more. It could have improved the track listing for “Graffiti Bridge” immensely. But that’s another blog post entirely.
“I Can’t Love U Anymore” – “I Can’t Love U Anymore” is a touching demo from 1992 that features only Prince and a piano. It was recorded in a hotel room in Melbourne, Australia. (Prince was known to ship his own baby grand piano to his hotel rooms; sometimes they had to be lifted by crane into his room.) The song was written specifically for the James L. Brooks movie “I’ll Do Anything,” and versions were planned with several different singers, but reaction to the production numbers was largely negative, and the project was shelved.
“It’s a Wonderful Day” – another collaboration with Wendy and Lisa, the two share lead vocals. An instrumental version of this upbeat, quirky song, which was originally slated for “Dream Factory,” was included in the movie “Under the Cherry Moon.”
“The Second Coming” – A beautiful a cappella song that was recorded for the “Controversy” album, the only version that has leaked out is one that was played over the PA at the beginning of the “Controversy” tour (hence the crowd noise). All vocals, of course, are courtesy of Prince.
“Purple Music #1” – How can you not include an unreleased song called “Purple Music?” While it runs a little long and gets repetitive, it features the famous Linn LM-1 drum machine that was so apparent in all of Prince’s recordings during the “1999”era. It gives you a feel for what was going through his head at the time, and that’s why these unreleased tracks are so important: They give context.
“Witness 4 the Prosecution” – Can you tell I like “Dream Factory?” “Witness 4 the Prosecution” was also slated for that ill-fated album. There are several versions floating around; I prefer the harder-edged version with more electric guitar and no saxophone.
“Can I Play With U” – This song was written for Miles Davis, who added the trumpet part after Prince laid down the original track. It’s part funk, part hard rock – a surprising choice for Davis. It’s a shame nothing was ever done with it.
“All My Dreams” – Originally slated first for “Dream Factory” and then for “Parade,” “All My Dreams” is a perfect album ender; you can almost imagine credits rolling or a company of actors giving their stage bows as the music plays. It’s totally unlike anything Prince has done; it has an old Hollywood feel and demonstrates his ability to span all genres of music.